Our Blessings

Our Blessings

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Build-Another-Bear


Anyone who has followed my blog or ever met Ren & her bear knows our pre-adoption Build-A-Bear tradition. The boys made one for us to send to Loe in her care package in China. We recorded our voices and placed that sound button inside her bear's paw. We also had her name stitched onto a t-shirt for the bear. It sits on her bed with all of her other favorites. Loe & the boys made one for Ren, also with a sound button & t-shirt. It goes EVERYWHERE with her and has since she came home. It's becoming slightly more common for her to leave 'Teddy' in her room or in the car over this past year - my baby girl is growing up!  The girls made one for Vivi and one for her birth mom. We knew Vivi wouldn't notice it much during those early months and in fact even today she only plays with hers once in a while. (She MUCH prefers to tote around a VERY thick, hot, blanket instead!) But, we knew giving one to her birth mom might give her something to hold in her empty arms as she left the hospital. The sacrifice and courage birth moms show is nothing short of incredible.


We first began Angie's adoption process and then realized later that she was eligible to be part of the hosting program. So, we knew a care package would have to wait until further in the process when we were officially approved by Colombia and when she was aware we were adopting her. So, we all decided that taking her to Build-A-Bear for her birthday (SO blessed to have her here to visit for her 13th birthday!) was a great plan and she could then build her own bear and take it home!


We hoped she would be able to bring it back with her when we came to pick her up 14 months later. We knew she was a sweetheart...what we didn't count on was just how generous her heart really is. When she was back in Colombia a little cousin in her foster family really had her eye on that bear and cried when she couldn't have it...so Angie gave it to her!


She was so excited to come build another bear.  I love that she gets a chance at a second childhood in our family. Yes, she's 14.5 yrs old, but she has siblings that are 2, 6 & 10 - that gives her a wonderful excuse to play like a little girl - such great therapy. Trauma is an ugly thing - it steals away so much. When our kids with hard histories get to go back and be a kid again (along with many other methods, it allows them to not only build warm, positive memories - but it actually helps with development - sort of filling in some of the gaps - mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically. 


The girls were thrilled to come along on another bear-building expedition. Angie let each of the girls help brush & fluff Rosa's fur. Her last bear was similar, except she had snowflakes. No snowflake bears in August. :) But, a very cute, soft, pink bear seemed to do just fine.


She picked out a cute dress and created a birth certificate for her bear. 


After an emotionally exhausting week and my heart breaking for my girl - 
this was a smile and a sweet memory that was definitely worth the $38.00! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Officially Welcomed Home!


We were blessed with a baby shower or 'welcome home' party for each of our kids. So, we were excited about the idea of having a party for Angie, yet wanted to be sure she was not only ready to handle that without feeling completely overwhelmed, but be sure she actually wanted a party. We gave her a few months to settle in and learn more English and when we brought the idea up - she was absolutely thrilled with it! 


We wanted to make it a special day celebrating her permanent arrival into our family. We kept the party plans pretty simple - snacks, sweets, family and friends. We have always sought to honor China because we received two amazing gifts from that country - Loe & Ren. 


So, we were equally eager to acknowledge and honor Colombia not only for the gift of Angie, but because Angie is 14 and will always have memories and a connection with her birth country. 


Yet, she is completely thrilled to be an American citizen, as well! So, we decided to combine the two flags and their colors to help us celebrate our girl. 


Both flags have red and blue - but the Colombian flag also has yellow. As we decorated I was thinking that the yellow made everything so bright and cheery - much like our new daughter does. 


She really does have a way of adding sunshine to our family and bringing Colombian and American cultures together! Angie loves anything pretty and almost anything with sugar! We had fun shopping for red, white, blue & yellow decorations and candy. The girls counted down the days and repeatedly asked who would be attending! 


One of Angie's dear friends, Ashlyn, offered to bake her cake for the party. We ordered some cupcakes to go with it and stuck Colombian and US flags in them. 


We ended up with plenty of cupcakes and didn't need to cut into this pretty and VERY delicious cake. So, our little family of 8 devoured it in about 2 days! Oh! Yummy! 


Thanks Ashlyn! 


To say that we are blessed with support and people to love and pray for Angie is an understatement! We ended up having almost 100 people come celebrate with us! WOW! What a fun day! (And I still need to track down a few groups to get their picture!)


Eloise helped all of the kids who attended make a craft. A paper heart ornament made from recycled maps. God has built our family with His love from all over the world! So, each family was sent home with a tangible reminder to pray for Angie and our family.  


The kids played outside...


...and inside. (I think poor Colton is enduring an exam by a couple of very young doctors, perhaps with not so gentle bedside manner!)


We scheduled the party as an open house - allowing 3 hours for people to come and go as it worked with their schedules. We set up some tables and chairs outside and I imagined people coming in - filling out a card, grabbing something to eat and heading back outside. But, within the first hour the house was PACKED with people! It was pretty warm out and so many wanted to stay inside with the A/C. I didn't blame them! 


We found a fun little scrapbook with pages holding a variety of pockets. Some designed to hold photos and some are for decorative cards you can buy in theme packs. Such CUTE and SIMPLE scrapbooking! Love it! So, we encouraged everyone to fill out a card for her album.  


And I attempted to snap a quick photo of Angie with each family or person that attended. I will print out those photos and she'll put the cards and photos together in her album. Even Vivi went to work after the party designing her own card for Angie's book. :) The book will serve as a great memory not only of her party - but also of God's faithfulness in bringing such wonderful people into her life! 


After the party was over the girls sat down together to look at the cards that were given to Angie. I was reading them through tears of thankfulness for the people God has placed in our life who love and support us as well as our girls so amazingly well! The warm words, prayers and powerful scriptures are going to be treasured!


Angie was beaming with joy throughout the entire party. I wouldn't say hosting a party like this for every adopted kiddo is a the best idea. Some personalities would be quite different and this would be not only overwhelming, but downright frightening. But, not this girl - she truly is a social butterfly. She happily posed for picture after picture. She greeted people as they arrived with hugs and worked hard to use some english when conversing with everyone.

Thank you so much to everyone who came to celebrate Angie with us! Many of you prayed for her to come home, many helped at our fundraisers and continue to pray for our family as we all adjust. We are so, so, SO grateful! We have had a lot of adjusting these past 5 months, but Jesus continues to be at work in so many ways in each of our lives. We very much appreciate continued prayer for God to knit our family together, to bring healing for past hurts and trauma and for His joy and peace to permeate our hearts and home. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

These girls.


I take a ton of snapshots of these girls with my phone every week. And my camera sits unused much of the time just because it's big and bulky and not usually nearby when I 'need' it. We have multiple pictures on our walls in almost every room of Angie - all were taken when she stayed with us through the hosting program in December of 2012. I was about to schedule a photo shoot with a sweet young lady who is a friend an an amazing photographer. She is not available right now. No details - but please, please be praying for this young family. They need God to do a BIG work in their lives right now. 


So, yesterday I decided to attempt to snap a few pics in hopes of getting a few I could put up on the walls with all four of our girlies. I would have rather had all six of my kids together - but it can be challenging to find an evening to get everyone together - especially spur of the moment.  


So I settled for just attempting to capture the girls. (Attempt is always the keyword with taking pics of them.) After dinner I rummaged through the girls' closets and came up with some items that didn't clash and even complimented each other a bit = bonus.  Told them to change their clothes, I helped Vivi and we jumped in the van. For those that think we spend a small fortune on matching clothes...we don't! I promise! When the girls do it on their own they rifle through their drawers and closets filled with a combination of a lot of hand-me-downs and stuff I've shopped for on sale and hunted down coupon codes. (And a large collection of matching His Little Feet shirts help!) Viv's wearing a dress that both Loe & Ren wore before her. I have loved this color on each of them. Well, I just love this color in general!  Loe is wearing a pretty top we picked up in Colombia.  



And Angie's wearing a dance shirt (sacred white t-shirt!) and a skirt that was actually a sundress I ordered last summer for both she and Loe. She wasn't home in time to wear it last summer and they are both taller now! So, they became skirts for both girls this summer. 



A funny side note...When I encouraged Angie to wear this skirt for the first time for a government meeting in Colombia - she was polite - but most certainly NOT interested! We didn't have much else in her suitcase that was on the dressier side - except for another skirt just like it that was different colors! We comprimised and she wore it for the meeting and changed as soon as we got back to the hotel before we left to go out again. 



It eventually came to light that she was NOT a fan of skirts (or really dresses either) at ALL and especially ones like this! Here we are almost 5 months since that meeting and she now chooses to wear many dresses and skirts - included that one! She has totally embraced the idea of dressing femininely and modestly.  Now I have to ask her to be careful when she tries to point out people to me in public that, according to her, are not dressed appropriately! 



 Ren has a cute hand-me-down dress that was given to us when Loe was still too small for it. She eventually wore it and now it's being passed through the girls. Since Loe & Ren had these cute jean jackets as part of their choir wardrobe - I picked up one for Angie and Vivi knowing they would work well for many outfits. 



 We played at this park twice in the last few weeks. The girls love the playground, but when I looked down in this area next to it I immediately thought it would be perfect for photos and tucked that thought away. I really hoped for some of those gorgeous golden rays of sun to shine through just before it dipped down behind the mountains...but the cloud cover prevented that.


So...the girls looked cute, the setting was pretty, I actually had my camera instead of my phone. The "itchy" weeds and flying gnats were definitely a challenge! But, once they discovered that the field was full of ladybugs they forgot all about everything else...even me. These shots were not posed - they were just having fun catching ladybugs. The rest of the shots were mostly their idea - I helped a few times. But, they just kept posing themselves. (Note their favorite further down - the coo-coo song from The Sound of Music! Funny girls.)


This relationship was prayed about so many, many times before Angie came home. Yep - they have some tension and we are praying about it and working on it. But, they really are dear friends already. God is so good.


This girl...continues to be my greatest source of laughter and sweet snuggles! And she also continues to keep us on our knees in prayer for wisdom in parenting her! Every parent wishes for a personalized parenting manual for each kiddo. Oh how I wish I had that for this girl the most! I am so convinced that God has grown such a deep connection between us because she is such a combination of sweetness, hilarity and fun along with orneriness and defiance in very large doses - oh my! This was one of the few shots I got of her looking at the camera, smiling and one of the few times a little tiny bit of sun was trying to peak through a think spot in the clouds. Vivienne is in CONSTANT MOTION! So much energy - wish I had half of it! Super fun and SUPER challenging when it comes to taking pictures! This was one of the few shots I got of her looking at the camera, smiling and there isn't a limb moving through the picture at high speed. Victory! And one of the few times a little tiny bit of sun was trying to peak through a thin spot in the clouds giving her a golden glow. 


This girl. When did she stop being a little girl and look like this?? Where has the time gone? Wow! We go along for a while and think we have Ren figured out and then she surprises us. She can definitely score off the charts in the whining and bickering with her little sister department. But, she is also blowing us out of the water with her passion for learning and soaking up school. Her teacher could barely keep up with her during her first year in school she whipped through kindergarten and 1st grade material and is cruising through 2nd grade stuff now. She could barely sit still and focus and seemed to have little interest in school and then BOOM...she took off when she started attending our little homeschool tutoring service. 


Between her experience at school and being a part of His Little Feet...Miss Renice has really grown up a lot! Can't believe my little spicy Hunan girl will be 7 this fall. It just doesn't seem like 6 years ago in a hot July that I had just brought her home from China as this roly-poly, smily baby! And now she is a beautiful little lady.


Miss Eloise is definitely moving from little girl into preteen/young lady - whatever this stage is called. We're dealing with hormones, anxiety and her HUGE loving heart. Isn't that always the way it is? God gives us strengths and the enemy immediately tries to steal that away and make it our weakness. Loe has a gift for organization and time management that is pretty impressive. But, it's her heart that continually sends out feelers like waves of radar to everyone and everything in the room that is nothing short of incredible. Since she was tiny we could see her attentiveness always either right on the line or crossed way over into overwhelming + worrying + fretting. And that all equals controlling. Trauma is ugly and leaves scars that at times feel irreversible. But, I know a GOD that is the giver of GOOD things. What the enemy intends for harm - God will use for good. Yes, we are dealing with some stuff with our girl. Yes, adopting out of birth order stirred things a bit. But, I stand in awe at her desire to love and encourage others. I am so thankful God placed her into our family. 


Caught yet another ladybug nearly as sweet as her smile. 


Excited to see the healing in store for her...


...and the plans God has for her life!


Our Angie is simply amazing. She has been in our lives for 21 months. With us for 5 months. Home for 3 months. 


Yep - there have been challenges without a doubt. But, she works hard to overcome them. Learning English is still a tough challenge for her - please continue to pray for God to open up her mind to learn to understand, speak and write well in English. 


Pray for her to fully and completely grasp what Jesus did for her. She prays and loves reading her bible and seems to have a relationship with Him...but we're not sure she totally grasps her need for a Savior. 


She's 14 and she's a girl - so yeah we have hormones and drama. But, she has a joyful heart and an overcoming spirit. With her hard history - that seems like a miracle to me. Our God never ceases to amaze me.


There is so much more going on with these girls - hard stuff and good stuff. But, that's enough rambling. We appreciate prayer for each one to press into the truth and love of Christ more and more. 


And prayer for Trevor and I to have abundant wisdom...


much laughter and energy...


to keep our eyes fixed on our Creator...


And to daily empty ourselves out so He can fill us. 


These girls are all growing so quickly and we long to love them, laugh with them, point them to Jesus  and prepare them for life. 


Our life with them is busy, loud, chaotic and beautiful, joy-filled and amazingly blessed. 


 After they endured the itchy grass and bugs and me following them around with the camera - they begged me to play on the playground. I made them all sit for one more picture and then they were off making friends with a girl at the park who was from the middle east and was here with her dad for work. She spoke broken english and was curious and a little shy. They quickly drew her in, introduced themselves and taught her how to play tag. I love the way they make friends so easily. I love the way they love others. I love them.